Midtown Raleigh News

Pleasant Union class wins national video contest

A vote that came in just three minutes before the deadline made Jeff Collins’ fifth-grade class the grand prize winner of a national video contest.

On Friday, the students who won the DEN Dr. Lodge Video Challenge sat on the stage of the Pleasant Union Elementary School’s gym while classmates, parents and faculty were told about their achievement.

Dr. Lodge McCammon, a specialist in curriculum and contemporary media at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at N.C. State University, and Discovery Education created the challenge to promote the use of digital media in the classroom.

McCammon, who attended the awards ceremony, said it was the students’ enthusiasm and creativity that put them “over the top” and made them the grand prize winners.

The contest directed students to perform to one of McCammon’s educational songs. The Pleasant Union students chose “The Value,” a song that reviews the order of operations. In their video, they wore T-shirts with math symbols and danced in front of a black background showing the order of operations.

McCammon said the winning group took his choreography and “changed it to make it even better.”

Collins said the hardest part of making the video was keeping the students focused because they were so excited. Students split up into groups and learned the dance moves for different parts of the song, but they also competed with each other to see who could be more creative with them.

“There was definitely some in-class competition,” he said.

Collins learned about the challenge at a Discovery workshop where McCammon briefly spoke. “I went online, looked it up and decided that (we) might as well try it and see what happens,” Collins said.

Collins’ students had three days to prepare for the video, so he was “stunned” when he learned they were one of the 15 finalists and “shocked” when they won the grand prize, he said. Videos had to be shot in one take. Editing, transitions and digital effects were not allowed.

“It’s such a big deal,” Kevin Biles, Pleasant Union principal, said. “They put this together in such a short time.”

The videos were voted on by the public online after advancing past an initial round of judging. In addition to the ceremony, prizes included one Flipcam and 30 backpacks for the students.

Discovery Education Network shows teachers how to use digital media in the classroom, said Kyle Schutt, director of Education Outreach & Curriculum Integration at Discovery Communications.

DEN and McCammon have been partners for about two years after a colleague discovered McCammon’s “innovative” ideas, Schutt said. This was the first year for the video competition.